Page images

his own phrase, had overstepped the modesty of nature in the exaggerated fierceness of her character, returns back to the line and limits of humanity, and that very judiciously, by a sudden impression, which has only an instantaneous effect. Thus she may relapse into her former wickedness, and, from the same susceptibility, by the force of other impressions, be afterwards driven to distraction. As her character was not composed of those gentle elements out of which regular repentance could be formed, it was well judged to throw her mind into the chaos of madness; and, as she had exhibited wickedness in its highest degree of ferocity and atrociousness, she should be an example of the wildest agonies of remorse. Shakspeare could most exactly delineate the human mind, in its regular state of reason, so no one ever so happily caught its varying forms, in the wanderings of delirium.


The scene in which Macduff is informed of the murder of his wife and children, is so celebrated, that it is not necessary to enlarge upon its merit. its merit. We feel there, how



much a just imitation of natural sentiments, on such a tender occasion, is more pathetic, than chosen terms and studied phrases. As, in the foregoing chapter, I have made some observations on our Author's management of the Præternatural Beings, I forbear to enlarge further on the subject of the Witches: that he has kept closely to the traditions concerning them, is very fully set forth, in the notes of a learned commentator on his works.

This piece may certainly be deemed one of the best of Shakspeare's compositions: and though it contains some faulty speeches, and one whole scene entirely absurd and improper, which art might have corrected or lopped away; yet genius, powerful genius only, (wild nature's vigour working at the root!) could have produced such strong and original beauties, and adapted both to the general temper and taste of the age which it appeared.


[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]








THOUGH it is an agreeable task, upon the whole, to attempt the vindication. of an author's injured fame, the pleasure is much allayed, by its being attended with a necessity to lay open the unfairness and errors, in the proceedings of his antagonist. To defend is pleasant, to accuse is painful; but we must prove the injustice of the aggressor's sentence, before we can demand to have it repealed. The editor of the late edition of Corneille's works, has given the following preface to the tragedy of Cinna: Having often heard Corneille and Shak



speare compared, I thought it proper to "shew their different manner, in subjects "that have a resemblance. I have therefore chosen

« PreviousContinue »